How to Make Baby Food
It is highly recommended that babies are exclusively breastfed until they reach six months of age. Once your little one is over that stage, it is time to start solids. Of course, you will have to have a talk with your pediatrician before introducing solid foods to your baby. Also, there are some signs to look for to know if it is the right time to begin offering solids:
- You notice your baby remaining hungry even after his/her usual feeding schedule.
- Your baby is able to sit on their own without needing much support.
- Your baby keeps staring at others eating and tries to grab their food.
Once you get the thumbs up from your baby’s doctor, and you notice one or more of these signs, you are ready to start planning.
When it comes to giving your baby solids, you will find several nutritious options available right at your local supermarket. And though there will be some amazingly healthy and organic options, nothing beats your own preparation of baby food, completely homemade. By choosing to make baby food on your own at home, you get the opportunity to include different types of fresh vegetables, fruits, meats, and pulses, and introduce different flavorings, spices, and herbs. By doing this, you are basically preparing your baby’s palette to follow healthy eating habits throughout his/her lifetime, and of course, enjoy food.
Benefits of Homemade Baby Food
There are a lot of benefits associated with making baby food at home, some of which are as follows:
- First and foremost, your baby’s food will be unadulterated, because with homemade food, you know what is good for your baby and all the ingredients that go into the food. Moreover, you wouldn’t be adding preservatives of any kind as well.
- As mentioned before, homemade baby food will include lot more varieties. After all, readily available baby food cannot and will not have all the different vegetables, fruits, grains, and other food items. But, when you cook at home, you can include typically anything you know your baby will like and is good for them.
- You can make your homemade baby food extra nutritious by adding breastmilk to it, and also play with the textures according to your baby’s liking.
- And of course, baby food made at home is way more nutritious than jarred ones.
Start with Simple Foods
Even at six months, your baby is still little and his/her digestive system needs more development. Therefore, you should be really careful about what you offer them first, and the items you choose should be mild and easily digestible. There could be foods that do not go well with your baby, causing allergies, vomiting, diarrhea, constipation, etc. Hence, it is advisable to introduce one food at a time, and continue the same for at least three days to see if your baby is okay with it before moving on to the next food item.
When it comes to allergy-causing foods, there are a handful you should watch out for:
Another category of foods to look out for are those that cause gas. If your baby is colic, starting the following foods can actually worsen their problem:
And some of the easily digestible yet highly nutritious foods, which also usually do not cause allergies in babies, are as follows:
- Squash and pumpkin
- Cooked apple and pear
- Sweet potato
Baby Food Preparation
To make baby food, remember to always buy the freshest vegetables and fruits. Also, use the produce you buy within just a day or two. Going for organic produce whenever you can is a great option. Of course, when you cannot find fresh produce, you can use frozen foods. Here are some food preparation tips:
- When cooking food for your baby, it is important that you try and retain as much minerals and vitamins in the vegetables and fruits. This can be done by either steaming them or microwaving with a little water.
- Always wash the produce, peel them and remove pits or seeds completely before cooking.
- Avoid adding honey or other sweeteners to the purees or mashes.
- If your baby will be consuming the same food as the rest of you, separate the baby’s portion before adding seasoning.
The Right Tools
By using the right equipment, you can simplify the process of preparing your baby’s food to a great extent. Here are some useful tools you should consider investing in:
- A food processor: A food processor or a blender is typically everything you will need to make a wide variety of foods for your little one. However, some parents do not like these tools due to the amount of cleanup In that case, you can use a potato masher or even sieve with a spatula.
- A baby food maker: This device is basically a combination of steamer and blender, which can both steam cook as well as puree vegetables, fruits, and meat.
- A food mill: This is a non-electric tool that requires manual turning to puree foods. The fact that this tool is highly portable and comes with different types of blades to attain different textures makes it a popular tool among parents.
- A hand blender: The function of this gadget is obvious; it purees food just like a blender, except that its operation is a bit different.
And of course, you will always benefit from a good old fork, to make a meal out of easily mashed foods such as bananas, sweet potatoes, etc.
Making Large Batches
If you plan on making large batches of the food so you can freeze them for later use, you will need the following:
- Zipped freezer bags
- Baking trays
- Ice cube trays
- Cling wrap
- Marker pens
When you make large batches of baby food:
- Puree the food and pour the mixture in the ice cube trays.
- Use cling film to completely cover the ice trays.
- If it gets to more than a few trays, use baking trays to place the ice cube trays inside the freezer.
- When the cubes get frozen, transfer them to the zipped freezer bags.
- Always remember to date the prepared food without fail. If you are refrigerating, use the food within two days of preparing them; on the other hand, if you freeze them, they can be used for a maximum of four months.
- Thaw the frozen cubes by placing them in the refrigerator or microwaving.
- Always check the temperature of the food, especially after thawing, before feeding your child.
Since your child would have reached the age of six months when you start solids, you don’t really have to cook fruits except for some harder ones like apples and pears. And when it comes to fruits like pears, due to their natural juice content, you will not have to add a lot of water when cooking them. Here are some simple directions to cook harder fruits for purees:
- Fill about 1/3rd of a pot with water and place a steamer basket inside.
- Place the peeled and cut fruit in the steamer basket and bring the water to a gentle boil.
- When the water boils, turn the gas down to simmer until the fruit becomes tender.
- Once the fruit is tender, remove it to any serving bowl or plate, let it cool down, and blend it with a hand blender or just mash it with a fork until it reaches the desired consistency. Add water bit by bit if necessary.
Making vegetable purees involves the same steps as above if you go with steaming. When blending vegetables though, with any vegetable for that matter, you will have to add water. In that case, use the steam water to make use of those nutrients as well. Also, when adding water, remember to add one teaspoon at a time so you know when to stop.
Once your baby reaches the age where you can commence Baby Led Weaning (BLW), you can give them roasted vegetables. Vegetables like winter squash, potatoes, carrots, cauliflower, broccoli, and sweet potatoes are a great choice for roasting. For roasting:
- Cut your choice of vegetable into equal sized pieces to ensure even cooking. If you wish to add a little bit of sweetness, you can also roast firm pears and apples.
- Choose a pan that is big enough to hold all the vegetables spaciously without much cramping.
- Add seasonings of your choice. For oil, olive oil is an excellent choice. For toddlers, you can also add a little salt, some garlic, or some dried herbs as well. Toss the vegetables to spread the seasonings evenly and place everything in the pan.
- Roast the vegetable until tender. In general, roasting them for anywhere between 20 and 25 minutes in a 425 degree oven would be sufficient. However, the temperature and timing may slightly vary depending upon the type of oven you have and also the type of vegetable being roasted. As always, the best way to know is to test with a fork.
- Once cooked, let the vegetables cool down for a few minutes before serving.
- In the case of leftovers, you can store them in the refrigerator in an airtight jar for about three days, and reheat them before serving.
Quantity and Frequency
When it comes to deciding when and how much your baby eats, it is best to let them decide the same. There is no pre-determined quantity for a 6-month old to eat, or rather finish. Their meal can range anywhere between two teaspoons to a quarter of a cup. All you need to do is follow your little one’s lead on this front. If your baby seems to turn his/her away, loses interest, spits out food, or shuts the mouth tight, he/she is probably full, and it doesn’t matter if they haven’t finished their entire bowl. Also, some babies may not be interested in starting solids just yet; in that case, give them some time and try again after a few days or a week.
Once you start solids for your baby, it is also vital that you start offering them water to drink. This would also be the right time to introduce a sippy cup. In addition to keeping your baby hydrated, the water content will also help with easy digestion of food.